Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

The only other woman has been dead 125 years

Posted: August 27, 2015 by jennysaul in Uncategorized

First day of first metaphysics philosophy class..

The next semester will be me, seating round table with 16 males, exploring the relationship between fiction and philosophy, beginning with a reading of Middlemarch.

The only other woman in this class has been dead 125 years!

I recently presented a paper on a panel at a national conference. I was happy to get on the panel because it was related to a growing interdisciplinary field which I’d like to incorporate into my research. So I went with the aim of making some new connections in this field.

One of the other panelists (a male grad student) expressed interest in my paper, and offered several helpful comments during the question period. After the session, he gave me his email and asked me to contact him to discuss the paper further and to talk about co-writing a paper with him. I am not particularly interested in co-writing (especially with people I don’t know), but since I am trying to make connections in this field, I decided to contact him.

He responded by writing that of course he remembered me from the conference; how could he forget someone who was so beautiful? And also who presented an interesting paper (though this read like an afterthought). He then said that he really knew I was beautiful because he is gay and therefore could not simply be flattering me. He said he’d be too busy to discuss work until the fall but would like to skype to “get to know me better.”

I felt demeaned and objectified. Even though I know better, I started wondering what I had worn during the presentation and if I had worn something different if he would have said the same thing.

A hellish nightmare from beginning to end

Posted: July 28, 2015 by Jender in Uncategorized

My experience at an MA program was a hellish nightmare from beginning to end.  I hesitate to say more for fear of further retaliation.  I just want to caution those of you out there who are thinking about coming forward to report sexual predators.  Expect your department to turn on you; expect your department to retaliate against you.  Expect to be bad mouthed at every PhD program to which you apply.  Expect to lose your committee.  Expect to lose your letter writers.  Expect your department to withdraw all support from you.  Expect to become persona non grata.  Expect to be de facto barred from all opportunities in your department.  Expect to be gas-lighted.  Expect people to be thrilled to watch your fall from grace.  And, then, when you succeed, against all odds, and despite the prodigious efforts of your department to the contrary, through sheer force of will and talent, expect your department to exploit your success at every opportunity.  Expect to watch as your success is used to further the career of the predator.  Expect them to ignore your pleas to stop.  Expect this.

“Advising” at the bar

Posted: April 18, 2015 by jennysaul in Uncategorized

I attended the University of X. I was male but noticed a type of personal harassment from the advisor that started immediately upon enrolling. For me it came about because I had previously attended a different institution and was ABD before I left. His form of harassment came about in “oh we are tough and we will straighten you out”. His “advising” meeting consisted of his inviting students to a local bar. There was nothing academic going on at those events. One time he had his arm around a female graduate students neck and was asking her “which graduate students are dating each other”. Another time he was joking with another female graduate student about sexual intercourse. I decided to leave the program after a few months of that nonsense and never looked back.

Why did it go that way?

Posted: February 24, 2015 by Jender in Uncategorized

What I am describing is something that happened about 10 years ago. I was a master student then. My department at the time was hiring, and they whittled down the shortlist to four candidates. Each candidate was to present a paper to the general public (in reality only the department members and interested students would attend). They then would make the final decision of hiring with that presentation in mind. I only attended this particular female philosopher’s presentation because I was interested in the topic, and did not attend anyone else’s.

I do not remember much about the content of the paper, but I remember *vividly* the reception of the paper. It was absolutely hostile. Right off the bat the first question was very critical, and there was no relent. There was no woman department member present, as far as I can remember.

Reviewing this incident 10 years on, with zero memory of the content of the paper, there are only two conclusions that can be drawn: 1) the paper was crap, and she deservedly got the criticisms. 2) the paper was not crap, but the implicit assumptions about women kick in. They found faults in every little details.

Scenario #2 would be a simple case of sexism, but sometimes I think it is less sinister than just some old geezers thinking “women can’t do X”. They shortlisted her. And that particular female philosopher at the time was holding down a tenure in another part of the country. So obviously they thought she could do the job. Sometimes it could be just a combination of old habits die hard and a bad case of bandwagoning. Or maybe there was just some other internal department politics that had nothing to do with gender or that particular philosopher.

I am not providing excuse for the aggressors, I am just saying the cause of that particular ill treatment may be more complicated than a simple case of sexism (if there is ever such a thing as a “simple” case). At the time, of course, I had zero intent on digging deeper…

As to scenario #1, as we all know, academic Anglo-American philosophy is extremely adversarial, it could well happen to anyone regardless of gender. That doesn’t make it ok IMO, because the person they were criticizing had one in four chance of being their colleague. It was not the best way to showcase the social dynamics of the department! The extreme adversarial nature also needs to change IMO. It just ended up like workplace bullying, and nothing more. This aspect is still stubbornly the same 10 years on.

In the end, obviously the female philosopher didn’t get the job. The funny/good thing is, she ended up doing reasonably well in terms of publications 10 years on. The one that got away may not be the one after all.

Final disclaimer: I have been drifting away from academic philosophy for the past 10 years, but now decide to finally come back. Life experiences outside academia have done nothing but improve my perspectives.

Are there women philosophers worth studying?

Posted: January 18, 2015 by jennysaul in Uncategorized

In my master’s program in philosophy, a male student asked our male professor why we weren’t discussing female philosophers to which he answered that women philosophers didn’t contribute enough material to warrant study. He also said that they (women philosophers) did not write metanarratives and therefore were not substantive to the philosophical debate. My face turned red and I wanted to say something but I remained silent. I told our librarian what I’d heard and she pulled up a database that featured women philosophers which inspired me. I then contacted said philosophy professor and told him of my findings. He scolded me and said I should never mention that he said there was a dearth of female philosophers. He then proceeded to treat me poorly in every class I had with him. I feared I would not graduate (although fortunately I did). If I had it to do over again, I would have created a committee of others to address the situation to avoid being persecuted.

This will be a glorious couple of years

Posted: January 15, 2015 by jennysaul in Uncategorized

I am currently an MA student in Philosophy at a university that has just hired their first ever female associate professor. But before I get all gooey over that fact – and the fact that she’s teaching a course next semester, where there are actually female philosophers on the reading list – I will do a reality check and sum up a very small fraction of the various experiences I have had as a philosophy student.
During a discussion with a male associated professor, I was told that feminism is fascism. Of course, this was annoying but also hilarious, as he obviously felt the need to resort to crap like that instead of engaging in a purposeful discussion, exposing his own ignorance on the subject matter.
Those were some examples from my time as a BA-student, there are many more, but it would take days to write them down and relay the contexts etc.
During my masters, I’ve been told to ”tone down the feminism” when doing mandatory evaluations of papers with other (male) students. Of course I refused – to put it politely – resulting in a hefty slurring of functionalist claims about the (binary) sexes and a pretty blatant belief in gender-stereotypes. You know the drill. I have also been lectured by male students several times on how I am not ”doing” philosophy properly. I have only just completed the first semester of my MA, but I can already see it will be a glorious couple of years. I might end up being a master of fists as well as a master of arts in philosophy.